Conversation with a Ghost

Tom breathed. He opened his eyes. The air felt frosty, making his skin feel like sandpaper. Amy sat on the end of his bed. The room looked whiter, like he’d adjusted the colors that he usually used to look at the world. Amy looked just like she had in his dream. The same hair, dress, and eyes.

“Amy?” His voice sounded muffled.

“Yes.”

“What’s… am I dead?”

“Dreaming. Like last night.” She paused. Amy spoke slowly, and her eyes had little fire. It didn’t suit her. “It’s gone for now. You’re safe.”

“You saved my life. Thanks.”

“How did you know you had to invite me in?”

He gestured at the stack of books from the library. “Light reading. They say it helps the ghost to connect to reality.” She laughed, then winced. The effort hurt her. The world became foggy. “No… no!” Tom reached for her hand.

Her voice sounded like a whisper. “It’s all right. I’m tired. Fighting it off took a lot out of me.”

“Can I help? Can you…” He gulped. This really didn’t sound like a good idea, but there were stories of psychic vampires, ghosts that fed on the life energy of the living. “Can you use me? Like a transfusion?”

“Think about me.”

He thought about her dancing on the ledge. He liked her smile, and now that they could talk, he liked her voice. The fog cleared and she came into focus, bright and sharp. She seemed satisfied. Happy to see him clearly again. Then her face turned black and she slapped him so hard across the face that it made his teeth clack. “Don’t you ever, ever, ever ask me that again! Do you hear me?”

He held his face. It stung like being hit by a snowball. “Fine. Blame a guy for asking.”

“Don’t tempt me.” Emotions flickered across her face. He felt sad; it was coming from her. “I… sometimes I can’t help it. I don’t want to be like that thing.” She missed being alive. He could tell.

“All right. All right.” There were only two things he wanted to know, other than “What are you doing Friday night?” With the bluntness that comes in dreams, Tom asked, “How can I help you? What is that thing?”

“I don’t know, and I don’t know. It steals breath. Ever since I… changed… I’ve watched it feed on people all over this building. Three of them died. It sucked the life out of a woman my mom’s age who smoked, an old man on a oxygen tank, and a poor little boy who had allergies.” Her voice broke.

Tom gulped. People sometimes said this was an old, “sick” building. The health department couldn’t prove anything. He remembered getting a chest infection a year ago, for no good reason. He thought it was a spring cold. He’d had no energy and he felt like he couldn’t sleep for weeks. She nodded. “I know what you’re thinking. Last year. That’s when it took a taste of you.”

“Jesus Christ. You watched it?”

“I was outside.” She tilted her head, thinking. Long strands of her hair brushed over her face. Tom felt himself breathing, and started to feel the breeze from the window. He was afraid he would wake up soon. “You changed over this past year. I don’t know what it is, but when I walked past your room the other night, I could hear you dreaming. It sounded like music.”

“Weird. I saw you dancing on the ledge.”

She half smiled and shook her head. “Dancing? No. Maybe we dreamed about each other.”

Something occurred to Tom. It made no sense, except in a dream. “Then it showed up, and that’s when you slipped.”

“And you held on, and wouldn’t let go.” He nodded. She did too. “Yup. That’s what I remember, too.”

He felt himself wanting to yawn. He was waking up. “What happens now?” he asked, slurring his words. In the fog of his sleep, her reply was muffled.

His eyes opened. He had salt in his hair and burning in his eyes. The room was quiet, except for the usual sounds from the street down below his window. The spot on his bed where Amy had been sitting looked strangely empty now.

He felt something in his gut, and in the way that things come together after a dream, he knew what she’d said: it was after both of them. Tom put his hand where she’d been sitting, and dug his fingers into the covers. “We’ll get this thing, Amy,” he said.

<< Audio Track^ Dream Girl ^You’re the Bridge, Tommy >>

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